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What is a Trenching Shovel?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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A trenching shovel is a specialized tool for digging specific types of trenches in a yard or other area. Property owners or others may need to dig special trenches for irrigation, laying power lines, or for other home or commercial purposes. A trenching shovel can be used for some basic digging, where more extensive projects often require a different type of tool.

Those looking to dig trenches for important property improvements have options. A power trencher is a machine that cuts a trench in the ground with an automated digging apparatus. Experts recommend against using a trenching shovel to manually dig anything deeper than a foot.

Power trenchers can come in “walk behind” styles similar to a lawn mower or manually operated tilling machine. Other styles are add-ons to a Bobcat or skid steer vehicle. There are also special designs for special purposes, such as a “lawn edge trencher” for landscaping, or a “wire trencher” for getting specialized trenches to lay electrical lines.

In manual trenching, those with tough jobs to do can choose from conventional, large, or small trenching shovels. These often have a “straight spade” style design with a sharp point at the bottom of the shovel. There are also tools called trenching hoes that have a single flat edge that will help to dig a trench with a specific width.

Safety is extremely important in using any kind of trenching tool. A trenching shovel with its sharp edges can easily puncture existing electrical wires or small water pipes. Property owners and workers using trenching tools need to know all about what’s already under the ground to prevent any accidents that could result in injury or damage to the property. Those using bigger trenching tools will also want to make sure that these machines don’t damage water pipes just by placing a weight load on them.

The soil type can be an important factor in what kind of trench digging tools to use. A mini shovel or other manual tool can be fine for softer soils, but a poor choice for hard or rocky ones. A power digger that can cut a uniform trench often provides better results than trying to do tough jobs by hand. Those who are responsible for either yard projects or bigger commercial projects can check out all of the options, and make informed decisions about how to dig the best trench for a particular use.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By whiteplane — On Jul 19, 2011

I just have to echo the issue of safety when you are digging your own trench. This is an issue that I know about all too well.

About 10 years ago my brother was digging a small tench in his back yard to try and improve drainage. It really didn't even go own that far. But he didn't call the utilities to check if their were any underground cables and he ended up putting his spade through one of them. He was electrocuted and died immediately. It was such a senseless accident that it took our family a very long time to come to terms with.

So learn from his tragic lesson. Call before you dig. The commercials are right no matter how silly they sound. This is a serious issue and you could be risking your life.

By tigers88 — On Jul 19, 2011

I once ha to dig a trench about 10 feet long and two feet deep using only a garden spade. Don't ask me why, it is a long ridiculous story. The point is that it had to be one and that was the only tool at hand.

Of course it took me almost the entire day. I mostly used the little spade (and trust me, it was very little) to break up and till the ground that I would then pull out with my hands. I had terrible blisters by the end of the ay.

But the trench got dug. It may not have looked great but it served our purposes. It just goes to show what a little perseverance and ingenuity can do when you are in a pinch.

By jonrss — On Jul 18, 2011

I have dug a lot of trenches in my life and let me tell you, having a mechanical trench digger makes the job go so much easier. You can dig a longer deeper trench in much less time than you could with a shovel and save your body a lot of wear and tear in the process.

You can find these at almost any equipment rental places for pretty cheap. Do yourself a favor and pick one up before you start your next project. Your back will be thanking you the next morning.

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